One of my favorite bets is the $1 trifecta box, and, with big competitive fields at Saratoga on opening day, big payouts are a very real possibility. So, here are my hypothetical bets for Wednesday’s card…let’s see how I do:
Race 1: 3-7-10
Yuck! Starting out with a $35,000 claiming race sucks, but a couple familiar names to me here. Graham Motion’s Massoud (John Velazquez) won the same opening race last summer with Johnny V up (after an equally-long layoff, and has a good record at Saratoga (and at this distance). Roger Horgan’s Lord Louis (Alan Garcia) has had an interesting career, with a foray into extreme distance racing in 2005 and 2006, before returning to “regular” turf racing this year, where he hasn’t been out of the money and has been no further than 1-1/2 lengths from first place. His late pace speed was impressive last out, and should do well here. Si O No (Eibar Coa) threw a clunker last out but is 5 for 7 in the money this year (though no wins) and drops down in class.
Race 2: 1-2-8
Ah, more to my liking! A two-year-old maiden race. Richard Violette’s Immortal Eyes (Gomez) ran a gallant race last out, and worked extremely well on this track recently. Dallas Stewart’s Noble Hero (Julien Leparoux) is a son of Vindication (27% wins with FTS) and Future Guest, who has five winners from five starters, including the precocious Ruler’s Court who won the G2 Norfolk Stakes at 2. He looks good here with all his recent works, and, of course, the young Frenchman aboard. Bill Mott’s Doctor Cal (Kent Desormeaux) is interesting, by Distorted Humor out of the Rahy mare Fancy Clancy who is a half-sister to Danseur Fabuleux, mostly famously the dam of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Arazi. He’s been working at Saratoga since May, with a bullet five furlong gate work on July 13.
Race 3: 4-5-7
Todd Pletcher drops Deadly Dealer (Velazquez) down in class (from grade 2 Woody Stephens), and he has been working extremely well here since that race. The distance should suit him. James Jerkens’ Grand Champion (Coa) looks very strong here, after excellent run last out at Belmont, and strong workouts. My longshot pick here is Michael McDonald’s Sir Silver Fox (Cornelio Velasquez) who, since switching back to dirt from turf, has won two races by a combined 19 lengths (one on fast track, the other in slop). He also boasts a monstrous four-furlong bullet work from July 14.
Race 4: 6-7-8
Tony Dutrow wins 25% first after a claim, which bodes well for Sarah’s Smiler (Ramon Dominguez) whose early speed should serve her well here. Bill Mott’s Forest Jazzy had a monster first time out win at River Downs back in May, winning by 24 lengths at six furlongs for Wayne Mogge, but finished dead last when Mott took over and ran her on turf at Belmont on June 30. So why run her back again on turf? Not sure, but going to trust that Mott has it figured out. Bill Badgett’s Egypt Lane (Edgar Prado) did well last time out, her first try on turf, and has solid works.
Race 5: 1-7-8
Bobby Frankel’s Borobudur (Prado) is impeccably bred, with a Grade 1 stakes-winning dam (Chimes of Freedom) and a Grade 1 winning half-brother, Good Journey (by Nureyev) and a Grade 1 winning three-quarters brother, Aldebaran (by Mr. Prospector). The question is, with a drop in class and the addition of Lasix, can he win after a 10-month layoff? Not certain, but I do think he’ll end up in the money. Another well-bred starter here is Virginia Minstrel (Coa) who is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Bandini. Since coming over to Barclay Tagg’s barn, he’s put in two second place finishes at this distance over the Belmont turf course, and looks to improve in third start off layoff. The experts are picking either Christophe Clement’s All Verses (Gomez), Todd Pletcher’s Rocket Legs (Dominguez) or Ronny Werner’s Warn (Borel) here, but I’m gambling on an even longer shot, Bill Mott’s Task Force (Desormeaux) who worked all May and June over the Saratoga training track and lost his first race (over the Monmouth dirt at this distance) but just a head, closing gamely.
Race 6: 6-8-12
If Scott Lake brings a 9-year-old claimer to Saratoga, he must be something else. That would be Explosive Count (Dominguez) who enters this $20,000 claiming race off two big wins over this distance, at Pimlico and Philly Park. Gary Contessa drops Melodeeman (Coa) way down in class and comes off long layoff, but he’s done that before successfully and has been working nicely at Saratoga for the past month. I could go with the logic picks, either Calculator or Lucky Frolic, but instead my longshot pick here is Ken Pellegrino’s Ed Miracle (Calvin Borel) who has been off since January, but boasts three very strong works in the past month.
Race 7: 3-9-12
John Kimmel’s Stately Pegasus (Desormeaux) look strong in this turf route, although not particularly successful at this distance. Still, I’ll take him in the exotics here. William Allyn’s Elder Statesman (Samyn) finished well his last two times out on turf, and may be able to do same here. Philip Serpe’s lightly-raced Hangingbyathread (Prado) merits consideration not only for the quality of who he has run against, but his turf pedigree, with his sire Giant’s Causeway.
Race 8: 1-4-8
You can’t go wrong selecting the coupled Darley/Godolphin horses, Eoin Harty’s Incriminate (Velezquez) who drops down in class after last racing in G3 Iroquois at Churchill last October, and Saeed Bin Suroor’s Blue Sky God (Luzzi) who returns to sprints after venturing into a 1-1/16 mile route in UAE. Both have worked well since last races. Linda Rice looks to have Executive Fleet (Desormeaux) in top form, as does Bruce Levine with Baby Rusch (Coa).
Race 9: 2-4-8
Despite the presence of at least one filly in this race, I’m going against Todd Pletcher’s entries here, and with Gary Contessa’s Hook and Ladder filly, I Promise (Coa) who ran a huge race at Belmont last out for Kim Laudati, and has posted two extremely strong workouts since, including a sub-one minute five furlong work on July 21. Contessa and Coa are a potent combo, and Contessa wins 19% with first-time starters. Barclay Tagg’s According to Plan (Cornelio Velasquez) won impressively at Belmont first-out on June 29, then put in a sharp work over the Saratoga track last Saturday. I’ve had Steve Asmussen’s Blitzing (Bridgmohan) in my Equibase Stable since her record-setting June 17 win at Churchill Downs, and she’s been working only five furlong works since then.
Race 10: 2-3-4
Michael Miceli’s Court and Speak (Javier Castellano) is obviously speed and class pick here, as is Richard Schosberg’s Papa’s Kara (Prado) who comes off impressive maiden victory under Prado and striking works since. The longshot I’m going with to complete the trifecta is Kelly Breen’s The Chelsea Comet (Velasquez) who hasn’t raced since August 2004 (yes, that’s not a typo), but has posted five monster workouts at Monmouth since June 15, and I’m betting they didn’t bring this 6-year-old mare to Saratoga unless they expected to win.
Well, a big fat zero today for me at Saratoga. Good thing I didn’t actually bet real money :) Unfortunately, Massoud’s breakdown in the stretch (taking Si O No out of it, as well as Lieutenant Danz) marred the beginning of the meet. Immortal Eyes scratched from race 2, and Noble Hero and Doctor Cal finished out of the money. One of my picks in the third, Grand Champion ($2.90), went off as the favorite, but could manage only to show, while Sir Silver Fox and Deadly Dealer did nothing. Egypt Lane ($14.80) won the fourth race, with Sarah’s Smiler and Forest Jazzy just out, at 4th and 5th places respectively. Task Force scratched from race 5, leaving Virginia Minstrel ($4.20) to place, and Borobudur out in fourth. Explosive Count went to the lead early in race 6, but faded in the stretch, while Melodeeman and Ed Miracle finished well back. In race 7, Hangingbyathread ($5.80) won, but Stately Pegasus faded to fourth and Elder Skatesman had nothing. Executive Fleet scratched from race 8, but Blue Sky God ($2.80) placed, while Baby Rusch tired badly to finish last. In the Schuylerville, it was a tight finish, but Richard Dutrow’s Subtle Aly nosed out I Promise ($9.00 place) and Blitzing ($4.10 show) who was going best late. According to Plan was just behind in fourth. In the last race, it was a deadheat between longshots for win: American Dream’a ($17.80) and Strong Presence ($28.00). Papa’s Kara ($4.20) showed, while Court and Spark and especially The Chelsea Comet had nothing. Edgar Prado started well, with three wins, but I was most impressed with Eibar Coa, Rafael Bejarano and even Fernando Jara, as they brought home longshots.